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Camden academic’s vision to bring maths alive for schoolchildren with apps and coding lessons

Dame Celia Hoyles Dame Celia Hoyles

Saturday, January 18, 2014
1:00 PM

An academic who was made a dame in the New Year Honours List wants to “bring maths alive” in schools with smartphone apps and coding lessons.

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Dame Celia Hoyles, 67, who has been a professor of mathematics at the Institute of Education in Bloomsbury for 30 years, said the use of technology in the classroom would help liven up the subject and attract more students to study it at a higher level.

She also suggested that pupils are taught about the relevance of maths in everyday life, from paying bills to the use of algorithms in digital animation for films like the blockbuster Gravity.

“I like to think of it as a powerful subject,” said Dame Celia, of Regents Park Road, Primrose Hill. “It’s not just adding up, and now we have the chance to show that with digital technology.

“We are seeing fantastic opportunities in education and in maths as well. The technology is there, but what we have to do is work to develop it.

“With collaborative work, pupils can share with students in other part of the country, bringing it alive.

“We could get an app and I really 
believe in this new coding idea. Teaching it in schools is really exciting.

“There are lots of things that could be done, but teachers need time to explore them.”

Dame Celia worked as a teacher in two east London schools for five years before moving into academia, working as a senior lecturer at the University of North London, Prince of Wales Road, Kentish Town, for 12 years.

She was appointed professor of mathematical education at the Institute of Education in 1984, where she still carries out research.

Dame Celia also served as government advisor to the education secretary under Tony Blair and was director of the National Centre of Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics from 2007 until April last year.

Children of the 1980s might recognise her as the co-presenter of popular educational TV show Fun and Games, which ran from 1987 until 1990.

Dame Celia, who was recognised in the New Year Honours List for services to education, hopes to raise the profile of maths through her continuing research.

“Even watching that programme Stargazing: Live, looking at all those things is mathematical because they had to work out where all the stars are,” she explained.

“Mathematics is also very important on a mundane level. We all have to pay bills, but it’s important to see how mathematics underpins so much in life, especially in this digital age.”

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